If you have ever watched a timbersport event then you have surely seen the standing block chop. But exactly what is it, how does it work, and what is the objective? I will explain all of these aspects in this article.
Wood chopping is popular throughout the world, a state fairs or agricultural shows, or even in the widely regarded Stihl Timbersports competitions. The Standing Block Chop is one of the key events or disciplines, along with the hot saw, single buck, stock saw, underhand chop, and springboard chop.
What is Standing Block Chop?
The Standing Block Chop is one of the most popular events in timbersports, which consists of a competitor trying to cut through a block of wood in the fastest time.
Standing Block Chop Overview
This event is designed to mimic the ability for an axeman to fell a 12 inch pine tree in the fastest possible time with the least number of axe swings. It requires a combination of power and accuracy with every strike.
All competitors are given a randomly selected piece of white pine that has a diameter of 12 inches. This is secured in a vertical stand and supported with spikes. It is the responsibility of the competitor to ensure their block is secured properly.
The competitors then draw their targets onto the front and back of the wood – called a scarf. The position of the scarf is set by the axeman based on their own personal preferences and strategy.
The objective of the single block chop event in timbersports is to see which competitor can cut their block in the fastest time and the least number of hits.
You might think that a standing block chop’s technique is a combination of a golf and baseball swing. The chopper stands firmly, making sure their front leg is out of the way in case their axe slides off the block.
The intent is to cut halfway through the block on the front side before switching to the back. The first axe strike is always in an upwards motion on the bottom marking for safety reasons.
Competitive axeman don’t just use any axe from the local hardware store when performing in timbersport events – they pick hand selected lumberjack products.
My personal recommendation would be a high carbon steel material, a 4 pound head with a handle of 32 inches such as a 1844 Helko Werk Competition Axe.
The key to success in the standing block chop is a powerful swing and optimum placement of the axe’s head.
I have also written a guide to competition axes that you might be interested in.
The most common wood you will see in the standing block chop is a 12 inch diameter white pine block. Four dogs or spikes are used to secure the block into the stand. This keeps the wood block two feet above the ground.
Local competitions make use other types of timbers if they are more readily available, however the preference would be for similarly soft woods such as pine.
The world record is currently held by Matthew Cogar with a time of 11.03 seconds, beating the previous record held by Jason Wynyard of 12.33 seconds [source].
The time is set between when the judge calls ‘go’ and when the block is severed. A competitive time for any major wood chopping competition is 20 seconds.
In local wood chopping competitions, axeman can be given a handicap based on their historic performance. This means that different competitors start at different times with the more inexperienced athletes getting a few seconds head start.